Recherche – Detailansicht








Porter, Stanley E. [Ed.]


A Handbook of Classical Rhetoric in the Hellenistic Period. 330 B. C.-A. D. 400.


Leiden-New York-Köln: Brill 1997. XV, 901 S. gr.8. Lw. hfl 430.-. ISBN 90-04-09965-4.


Janet Fairweather

This is a valuable collection of 29 essays, including important surveys and ground-breaking investigations of some neglected fields of Greek and Latin literature. ’Hellenistic’ literature is deemed to include that of the Roman Republic and Empire, even Christian writers of the Latin West. ’Classical rhetoric’ is named as the chief focus of the collection, but its editor clearly had the interests of New Testament scholars particularly in view. Five chapters are devoted specifically to literary analysis of the writings of the N.T. and others survey the genres of Greek and Roman literature most obviously related to them. But classical scholars need not imagine that their interests have been disregarded: the chapters on rhetoric in relation to poetry, drama and romance take us a long way from Biblical studies. This is a weighty work, then, to be described as a ’Handbook’, and one of a quite different character from H. Lausberg’s Handbuch der literarischen Rhetorik.

What exactly is ’classical rhetoric’? All contributors to this volume have needed to come to grips with this question. To their credit most of them answer it with discrimination, taking care to distinguish the most prevalent ancient conception of ì ®ËÙÔÚÈÎ as ’the art and power of persuasion in its public character’ from the modern assumption, foreshadowed occasionally but not generally accepted in Greek and Roman theory, that rhetoric embraces all ’effective use of language’ (so Donna Runnalls, HCRHP p. 737). Those responsible for determining the scope of the volume seem, however, to have had the broader definition in mind. Classical scholars will be surprised at the inclusion of a chapter on ’Apocalyptic and Prophetic Literature’. No matter: the volume contains little of what is worst in modernistic criticism, and the editor’s wide-open view of what sorts of literature might be discerned as belonging to, or influenced by ’classical rhetoric’ has made for richness, and not too much confusion. The work has a clear, tripartite structure: the essays of Part I undertake to survey the history of classical rhetoric, its principal genres (judicial, deliberative and epideictic) and the five standard ’parts of rhetoric’; Part II looks at ’Rhetoric in Practice’ in various literary traditions; Part III, is entitled ’Individual Writers and the Rhetorical Tradition’, though some of the chapters included in it cover the literary productions of far more than a single author apiece.

The opening two chapters of Part I are assigned to George Kennedy, the veteran author of a series of books on classical rhetoric. One point from his historical survey which readers of this Handbook should take care to note is that: ’There is no extant Greek oratory from the last 3 centuries B.C.’ (p. 17), nothing, that is, but fragments from the whole period from the ascendancy of Alexander to the death of Cleopatra, the limits of the ’Hellenistic’ age in the view of most classicists. We also have to come to terms with catastrophic losses of huge quantities of historiographical, biographical and philosophical Greek literature from the last three centuries B.C., pehaps constituting more than 99% of what was once housed in the Alexandrian library. These losses have very serious consequences for would be literary analysts of the New Testament, and of all later classical literature. They are perhaps not quite sufficiently emphasized by the contributors to this Handbook.

I have three particular regrets about Part I of HCRHP: first, that space was not found in the chapter on ’Genres’ for a fully comprehensive survey either of the progymnasmata or of the types of discourse distinguished by theorists on epideictic. A knowledge of both these two sets of literary forms is presupposed in some later chapters. It is also a pity that there is no account of the theory of ’Figured Rhetoric’, as set out in two little anonymous treatises included in the Teubner Dionysius of Halicarnassus, Opuscula II, pp. 295-358. This is where, in main-stream classical rhetoric, one found acknowledgement that a piece of discourse might simultaneously convey the messages of several genres, e.g. the deliberative and the judicial both at once. My third regret is that the five ’parts of rhetoric’ are not treated in the order standardized in ancient theory. It is helpful to regard these as representing five successive stages in the production of speech: ’invention’, the gathering of material; ’arrangement’, the assigning of material to different sections of the speech; ’style’, the task of written composition; ’memory’, learning one’s speech off by heart, and finally, ’delivery’, speaking it aloud, with gestures. It was a perverse decision then, to place the chapter on ’Arrangement’ before that on ’Invention’ and also to ask Thomas Olbricht to tackle ’Delivery and Memory’ in that order.

Beware Wilhelm Wuellner on ’Arrangement’: misled by modern perceptions he goes far beyond his brief, to confusing effect, on a topic where most ancient theorists were succinct. His chapter should be treated as a bibliographical quarry rather than an accurate introduction to classical theory; note particularly that ’the arrangement of words’ was regard in antiquity as part of ’style’. By contrast, Malcolm Heath’s essay on ’Invention’ is masterly: an account of how to gather material for one specific declamation. Galen Rowe on ’Style’ has merits too, particularly as an introduction of classical stylistics for the Biblical scholar. But sadly he repeats the common and influential mistake of listing ’chiasmus’ as a recognized classical ’figure’: in fact, it appears that the chiastic mode of thought was so deeply engrained in Greek- and Latin-speakers’ minds that it was regarded as natural.

The contents-list of Part II, ’Rhetoric in Practice’, suggests a conscious effort to cater for the needs of classicists as well as N.T. scholars, though the way in which it is ordered, with ’The Epistle’ first, and ’Oratory and Declamation’ as the sixth item, would never have been thought appropriate by anyone approaching the subject from a strictly classical standpoint. There are monumental, scholarly articles on ’Philosophical Prose’ (Dirk Schenkeveld) and ’Historical Prose’ (Stefan Rebenich), in which it is good to have Greek and Latin authors juxtaposed and treated as equally worthy of literary analysis. Ruth Webb contributes a piece on ’Poetry and Rhetoric’ which includes a level-headed introduction to the relationship between poetry and epideictic. Ronald Hock writes entertainingly on ancient prose fiction, in which Eros comes equipped with ’a satchel crammed with progymnasmata’ (G. Anderson, cited p. 450). ’Oratory and Declamation’ are tackled by D. H. Berry and Malcolm Heath. Cicero, inevitably, is the only orator whose work is analysed in detail; a survey of declamation from Antiphon to Libanius is attempted. Ruth Scodel takes on ’Drama and Rhetoric’, quite rightly allowing herself some preliminary discussion of Sophocles and Euripides before considering the unevenly scattered survivals from the period covered by HCRHP.

All the chapters in Part II so far mentioned, with the possible exception of the philosophical one, are of more obvious interest to classicists than N. T. scholars, who will find more of immediate relevance to them in the essays on ’The Epistle’ (Jeffrey Reed); ’Biography’ (Richard Burridge); ’Homily and Panegyrical Sermon’ (Folker Siegert) and ’Apocalyptic and Prophetic Literature’ (Jonathan Knights). Reed’s conclusion is that ’the rhetorical and epistolary genres may have been betrothed but they were never wed’ (p. 192). Burridge surveys what remains of ancient biography, viewing it as an outgrowth of rhetoric, most particularly encomium, but influenced also by philosophy and historiography - one might add, by gossip and folklore too, but that is another matter. Folker Siegert’s territory will be unfamiliar to many readers, and is obviously of great potential importance both for N. T. and for patristic scholarship. Jonathan Knights, predictably, does not see in the ’rhetoric’ of apocalypse much that belongs to the tradition of Aristotle or Quintilian.

The interests of theologians definitely shape the contents-list of Part III. The New Testament is considered first. Richard Burridge returns to the fray with ’The Gospels and Acts’, treating the Gospels as ,ÔÈ; Stanley Porter writes on rhetorical analysis of ’The Pauline Epistles’; separate chapters are devoted to ’The General New Testament Writings" (Lauri Thurén) and ’The Johannine Writings’ (Dennis Stamps). Is there much more scope for rhetorical analysis of the N.T. along strictly classical lines? I am left unpersuaded of it. On the other hand the potential for research in patristics and in Jewish and pagan Greek literature of the Roman Empire is shown to be enormous. Wolfram Kinzig and Philip Satterthwaite undertake with considerable virtuosity the huge tasks of considering in relation to classical rhetoric representative writings of ’The Greek Christian Writers’ and ’The Latin Christian Writers’ respectively. One chapter each is devoted to Philo of Alexandria (Thomas Conley), Plutarch (Hubert Martin) and Josephus (Donna Runnalls). All these three treatments of prolific authors are remarkably readable.

Ronald Hock takes a look at the Cynics: both their attitudes towards rhetoric and their frequent appearances as the subject of school exercises. John A. L. Lee and Kevin H. Lee subject the Greek and Latin versions of the Old Testament to minute scrutiny, and isolate gratuitous stylistic elegances introduced by the Septuagint translators and by Jerome in the Vulgate. Richard Pervo contributes an essay on ’Rhetoric in the Christian Apocrypha’. That there is no comparable chapter on the Old Testament Apocrypha must be regretted, given that Jewish Greek texts of the intertestamental period are the sources from which the N.T. writers are most likely to have learnt what they knew of classical rhetoric. Maybe some invited contributor failed to deliver: the editor had to face many such headaches, it seems. In the event, HCRHP ends with Edwin Judge on ’The Rhetoric of Inscriptions’, a piece which will disappoint anyone in search of a beginner’s guide to epigraphical conventions, or an analysis according to specifically classical rhetoric, but does give a fair idea of the variousness of Greek and Roman inscribed material.

It is good to have a study of Greek and Latin literature, 330 B. C.-400 A. D., in which the spot-light is shifted, for once, away from poetry and on to prose artistry. There are rich bibliographies. This work will provide much encouragement and support for future research.